Thursday, August 4, 2011

Feeding Frenzy

Since early July we have a feeding frenzy in our yard. Most of the resident birds--chipping and house sparrows, baltimore orioles, barn swallows, blue birds, mockingbirds, house finches, starlings, robins, grackles and red-winged blackbirds-- are protecting and feeding their young. I could spend hours watching them. 

The fledglings, who can fly only short distances, can't yet feed themselves even though they are out of the nest. Each species has a different method. Some are ground feeders, while some feed on the wires or in the trees.  But all of the fledglings, who chirp for their parents and flutter their wings, have one thing in common:  They are hungry! And the feeding is a non-stop activity for the parents.

They are an awkward bunch, with tufts of down on their heads and yellow, lipstick-like lined mouths, as they vie for their parents' attention. Watching the young barn swallows at eye-level from the upstairs hall window, feeding happens in a flash of wing and a blink of an eye, their parents arriving swiftly like Jedi fighters from the fields beyond.

Our two curious kittens - Joe (aka Secret Agent Man) and Pip are working non-stop climbing trees, hiding in bushes, and crouching under the cars, preying on the weakest and slowest. Unfortunately, they are often successful even as they duck and flinch in defense of the barn swallows who dive-bomb them while they walk in the open.

Last year while sweeping the front porch, I accidentally bumped a robin's nest. Startled, a small robin flapped and flapped in a weak effort to fly only to fall to the porch with a thump. He hopped into the shrubs. I managed to catch him and place him high in a denser shrub, only to watch him tumble to the ground several times. By this time I've got our big cat's attention. Shoot. I tucked him tightly between some branches and went back to my work. It happened again (where is my brain?). Sweep. ACK! Flap. Thump. Hop. This one I couldn't find and I felt terrible. About an hour later I see the cat chasing the small fledgling in the yard. Broom in hand, I swatted at the cat while trying to grab the bird, its parents squawking and diving at me all the while. It was sad and comical at the same time, and I never did know what finally happened to the two small birds. 

The female returned this year and built a nest in the exact same spot again and had two broods. Can you believe I almost did the same thing with the broom again? Twice?

Never a dull moment here.

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